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Frequently Asked Questions
Click on any question to see answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. If you wish to print this page, all questions and answers will open up on print.
If you have questions about the MSNCB FailSafe Certification Program, please visit the FailSafe FAQ page.
MSNCB and CMSRN
What's better - ANCC's exam or the CMSRN credential?
The CMSRN exam and ANCC's are equal in status. Both are accredited, both are recognized for Magnet status, and both are well-known in the nursing community. The CMSRN certification is more affordable and doesn't require contact hours to sit for the exam. For an in-depth look at the differences, view this chart.
Is the CMSRN certification accredited by ANCC?
ANA does not approve certification examinations. ANCC (ANA's credentialing center) is one of about 40 boards/centers that offer certification examinations in various nursing specialties. All these boards offer nationally standardized examinations that are prepared using accepted testing standards (Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (1999), published jointly by the American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education). ANCC offers the largest number of tests (between 30 & 40, including separate tests for AD/diploma and baccalaureate-prepared nurses).
Many of these boards are members of the Accreditation Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS), the "board of boards," (similar to the National Board of Medical Examiners). MSNCB has been a member of ABNS since 2004. The CMSRN certification has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Nursing Specialties Certification (ABNSC), the accredited branch of ABNS, since January 2009.
A large number of nurses are certified by boards other than ANCC, e.g., AACN for critical care nursing, BCEN for emergency nursing, OCN for oncology nursing, and NCC (National Certification Corporation) for women's health nursing. The NCC offers ten different exams in women's health, and AACN Certification Corporation offers five in critical care. Both NCC and AACN Certification Corporation offer exams in neonatal critical care. AACN Certification Corporation and NCBPNP (National Certification Board of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Nurses) offer both exams in pediatric nursing. Now exams in med-surg nursing will be offered both by ANCC and MSNCB.
Is the CMSRN credential recognized by the Magnet Hospital program?
The Magnet Recognition Program recognizes the CMSRN credential and all other certification credentials provided by nationally recognized nursing certification programs. Contact Magnet directly (firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-284-2378) if your hospital will not recognize the CMSRN credential.
If I am a few months shy of meeting the eligibility requirements, can I still apply?
You must meet eligibility requirements at the time of application. You will need to wait until you have met all 3 eligibility requirements of the exam to apply.
Do I need to have a BSN to take the exam?
No, there are no educational criteria required for the CMSRN exam. You do not need a BSN.
How much time do you recommend I study?
MSNCB does not offer a recommended time. Candidates are expected to study for the exam from the time they submit their application to the time they test. You may find that you would like to use more time to study.
Should I take the exam by computer or paper?
The CMSRN exam is offered in two different formats, computer and paper. The exam itself is the same. It's a matter of which format with which you are most comfortable and the flexibility of your schedule.
How do I find out the location of the computer-based testing (CBT) site in my area?
You can view a list of cities where CBT is offered under "About the Exam." Further information about the CBT testing center, such as its name, street location & phone number will be sent after your application has been approved for eligibility to take the exam by the testing agency. You do not select the date or location of your exam at the time of application.
When are the dates for computer-based testing (CBT) testing?
CBT doesn't have specific dates. We have over 260 exam sites and each site gives the exam between 2-6 times a week. You are assigned a 90-day window for testing from the time of permit. When you receive your permit, you choose your exam date and location within the 90 days based on the availability of you and the testing center. MSNCB does not assign a date or location to you.
Can I take the computer-based testing (CBT) at a Sylvan Learning Center?
The CMSRN exam is administered by CBT through the contracted company, PSI. There are more than 260 specific designated sites across the US. Only selected owned and operated PSI exam sites offer the CMSRN exam. Click here for a listing of cities that have CBT testing.
Does military get a discount?
MSNCB is proud of our military. If you are active duty military, you can register at a reduced rate of $260, a $115 savings from the regular rate. AMSN members receive the best fee of $255, so if you are a member and active duty military, you receive the lowest cost of $255.
Can I take the CMSRN exam overseas?
If you or a spouse is serving in the military, MSNCB provides the paper exam overseas through our testing agency, C-NET. To set up the site, have your educator contact Edie Nugent at C-NET at email@example.com to begin to begin planning. Sorry, we do not offer computer-based testing (CBT) overseas.
What if I am already a med-surg certified nurse?
If you are already certified in med-surg by ANCC, you can skip the exam. Review the eligibility requirements for Exam Exemption, and then apply using the Exam Exemption Application. You can apply at any time during your certification period.
Can I get an extension on my window for computer-based testing (CBT)?
If you have been assigned a 90-day window and you need more time, you can extend the window one time only and pay a $75 extension fee. The one-time extension gives you a new 90-day window immediately following your original window. You can request your extension by contacting MSNCB by email or phone.
Can I reschedule my exam?
If you are taking the exam by computer-based testing (CBT), you can reschedule within your 90-day window. If you need to reschedule outside of your window, you will need to apply for a one-time-only extension, with applicable fees. If you exhaust your extension window, you will need to request a cancellation.
If you are taking the exam by paper and pencil, you cannot reschedule your exam. You will need to request a cancellation.
I have to cancel my exam. How do I do this?
MSNCB understands emergencies happen. If an emergency came up, please send your cancellation request in writing to the National Office with supporting documentation. Cancellations are handled on a case-by-case basis. If granted, you will receive a refund of your payment via the way you paid for it. You had paid a $75 non-refundable processing fee that will not be included in your refund.
Does the CMSRN certification award contact hours if I pass the exam?
No contact hours are awarded for passing the CMSRN certification exam.
Do I have to wait until my med-surg certification through ANCC expires to apply for Exam Exemption?
No. As long as your med-surg certification is current or less than one year expired, you can apply for exam exemption.
Do you want copies of my CNE certificates?
No, please don't send in copies of your certificates when you submit your application. Just send the application, contact hour documentation form, preceptor form (if applicable), and unofficial transcript of academic hours (if applicable). If your application is pulled for random audit, copies of your certificates will be requested at that time.
I have more than the required 90 contact hours. Should I include them?
Yes, list more than the required 90 contact hours. Please do not send all CH accumulated if they number in the hundreds.
How do I know if contact hours are from an approved provider?
If you look on your certificate, the information should be printed, usually in small type towards the bottom. It should give the provider and accrediting company.
How do I know if my contact hours count as med-surg or professional development?
There are several ways to determine if the content of your contact hours are med-surg. Review the exam blueprint and domains of practice for a guideline of what is considered med-surg. Things like informatics, leadership, research, financial management, and interviewing would be considered professional development.
Do all medical-surgical contact hours have to be awarded through AMSN?
No. Education programs must be presented by an individual, state, or national organization accredited as a provider of continuing education in nursing. Education programs may be in any format including, but not limited to, courses, workshops, and independent study modules.
AMSN is an excellent resource for medical-surgical nursing educational programs through their annual convention, their official journal, MEDSURG Nursing, and their member newsletter, MedSurg Matters!. Both of these publications offer contact hours through continuing education articles for independent study in each issue.
Can contact hours provided by my hospital count?
If your hospital is accredited by an approved provider, you can claim the contact hours.
How far back can I claim contact hours?
You can include any contact hours beginning from January of the year you were certified.
How early can I send in my recertification application?
You can send in your application as early as a year before your expiration date.
How late can I send in my recertification application?
You have until your certification expiration date to postmark the application. It is recommended you send it in three months before your certification expires. If you send it past your expiration date, a late fee applies.
Can I receive credit for the certification review course I completed before taking the exam?
Yes, provided you took the course the year you were certified. You can claim any contact hours from January of the year you were certified.
Does my academic schooling count for contact hours for recertification?
Biopsychosocial academic coursework earned towards a baccalaureate, masters, or doctoral degree program will count towards a maximum of 75 contact hours. Submitting a copy of your academic transcript is required. Other health related topics or professional development course work will receive credit for a maximum of 22 academic CH.
Each academic credit = 15 contact hours
Can I count CME credits?
Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits are acceptable when the content is also applicable to medical-surgical nursing. One CME equals one contact hour. If audited, course outline and/or objectives must be submitted.
If I am second author of a medical-surgical article published in a recognized journal, do I receive full or partial credit?
Both authors and co-authors receive full credit for published articles.
What if I do not have enough contact hours to recertify by continuing education?
You can still recertify by taking the exam again. Standard exam fees apply.
How do I know if my contact hours are from an approved provider?
When it states that the contact hours must be from an approved provider, it doesn't mean MSNCB must approve each provider. For any organization providing continuing nursing education, the organization must seek approval to provide it (to make sure you as a nurse are receiving quality education). There are hundreds of CH approvers. An organization will always be able to tell you if it has been approved to provide the contact hours. There is also always a statement on your certificate you receive saying the organization is an approved provider.